Yesterday, we shared with you a story about a local Williamson County Schools bus driver who had turned in his notice after 6 years on the job, due to a cut in hours.
We asked for your comments regarding our story and your experiences with this year’s bus routes. We received an overwhelming response through Facebook and comments on our website.
Dr. Looney Addresses Comments
Posted on our website and seen this morning:
Thanks everyone for expressing their concerns on this important issue. We are working hard to recruit and retain drivers. Please allow me an opportunity to provide additional information.
All drivers received a 5% raise this year and we worked hard to secure it.
WCS bus drivers are paid hourly for the time they drive. Driver pay could only be reduced if he/she switched routes to something shorter. Typically, this occurs when a driver requests a route closer to home or when we have to shift drivers due to growth. Drivers that are doing an extra run work longer and earn more. Those who live far from their route are compensated for their extra-long drive time.
Starting pay for drivers is over 14 per hour with experienced drivers earning more for longevity. In addition, we pay drivers an extra 88 hours each year to keep their buses clean and to take them in for service. Although bus drivers do not work a 40 hour week, they do receive full time benefits to include health insurance, retirement, life insurance etc….
There is a regional bus driver shortage and many middle TN districts are competing for drivers. It is a particularly difficult challenge in Williamson County in part because of the lack of affordable housing in the community.
Unfortunately, our director of transportation recently passed and this has put the department behind schedule in filling vacancies. We have someone working on this full time, have 8 drivers in training and are currently interviewing for a new director.
I apologize for the inconvenience this issue has created for families. We are working diligently to resolve it. A vast majority of our drivers are hardworking, dependable, and are deserving of additional compensation. I support these individuals and will continue to work on their behalf. Hopefully, the community will support such an action in the future.
I am completely open to input and suggestions from the public on how to best address this challenge. I can be reached by phone at 615.293.0997
We received comments from parents regarding children having to ride with at least three to a seat.
Melissa Krawcyk: “We cannot pay the people who get our children to and from safely, the money they deserve but Looney can get a huge pay increase? Our children are sitting 3-4 in a seat and always getting calls they would be late due to shortage of drivers. They need to pay these drivers what they deserve!”
Angela Santoro: “My kids were affected by this last year. At times not getting home til 5, 3 kids deep in the seats. This year, even changing schools in the district we now are being “missed” on pick ups. We just started school. There was no phone call or email sent out and thankfully I was home when my child came home after 30 minutes of waiting for the bus. When I called the bus depot, they just said they would look into it. This happened 2 times in 1 week.”
Laela Trudeau: “I’d rather my kids get home later than having them combined with TWO other buses. Having 3 to seat in High School is just not working. My daughter said there isn’t room for everyone to sit so many kids have to stand in the aisle! How is that safe?! If I could drive them to school, I would.”
Yesterday’s article told the story of local bus driver Jerry Martin and many of you wrote it to tell us about Martin.
Kelli: “Jerry was the driver on my daughter’s route. This was her first year she finally convinced us to let her ride. Since he’s left we wait on average 30-30 mins in morning and after school never knowing who or when the pick up and drop offs are. Was super impressed and now not at all and we will be doing the pick up and drop offs due to lack of communication going on.”
Kim Cannon: “Mr. Martin is my son’s bus driver. Every morning this year he puts the bus in park and gets up to make sure all of the kids have a seat. The bus is as full it can be. He is patient and kind. Pay them all what they deserve. School couldn’t start on time if we all had to drive the kids to school.”
Readers also expressed concern about the current bus routes.
Lori: “The transportation has long need an infusion of common sense. At one time our kids picked up the high school bus at 5:50 am and returned home at 4:20. First on in the morning and last off on the way home. I was told time and time again the “computer” set the route. As a former WCS employee myself, it is dishearten how little the county is willing to spend to insure our children have a educational system that cares about them. Some of the restrictions for hiring drivers is ridiculous. Parents need to demand that our children are put first. Time to rid the system of the old school mind set. This county is just going to continue to grow at a rapid rate. Seems the WCS is always playing catch up and not thinking to the future. Anyone that has attended more efficient and successful school districts knows it can be done better than its being handled now.”
Mary: “This saddens me to see good bus drivers go. Part of our children’s education is safe travel to and from school. If WC wants to continue being THE BEST, which I believe we are, then this issue must be addressed and rectified immediately! As with most things in life, you get what you pay for and I, for one, want GREAT bus drivers for my/our kids!”
This reader only identified themselves as ‘Upset’: “I am glad to hear others people have concerns. When I talked to Ms. Nunley about my concerns with my son’s late bus (Driver decided he did not like the route on the website – changed it for his convenience without notifying the parents. Past the bus stop where his ride was waiting and left him off at an empty house) her response was flippant. I was told the route was changed for safety reasons. This answer didn’t make sense for two reasons. One -the bus has been using this route for years with no problems (different driver). Two the route was changed by the new driver (without notification to the parents) because he lives down the street and it is more convenient for him. We are currently using other means to get to and from school but it is a shame the transportation department is not held accountable.”